by MOC Magazine
According to Keith Boykin, for many Black Gay men, discovering their sexuality is like “finding one more river to cross in the journey toward freedom.” We know that river well. Battling an era fear and silence and shame, who hasn’t felt bombarded with the doom and gloom articles of the 90’s? H.I.V and homophobia, sexual stereotyping and misrepresentation.
In times when you can be killed for holding your partners hand, it’s hard not to question what’s good about being Black and Gay?
“I know I’m unique,” Stephen from Highgate tells us, “it’s up to me whether I use it positively or negatively. It’s a beautiful part of who I am.” This refreshing attitude represents one of many identities emerging from the BGLBT’s growing diversity. It seems without us the struggle for sexual freedom would remain little more then a drop in the very dull ocean.
Since the 1970s the gay movement has debated whether the way forward was to be like everyone else (the assimilationists) or to strive, pink whistles and rainbow flag in tow to be different (radicals). From school books about sexually confused penguins to civil partnerships, the gay events of previous years would appear to be ushering our decade of fabulousness into times of quiet normality. While T.V sets tune into the soft smiles of queer icons and gayfriendly soap characters, it seems the days of “dare to be different” have died out with disco.
Today the Black Gay movement remains beautifully distinguished in part because of its refusal to back down. “We want to be like everybody else” we’re told, “but we want our diversity too.” In other words, we want our cake and to eat it. And really, why shouldn’t we? Who else has made men and women of all races collapse onto the dance floor, in an attempt to do the “dutty wine?”
While some are happy to change laws, Black Gay culture appears to be effortlessly changing minds. For gay men of colour the struggle has fuelled an atmosphere of celebration.
“Although we still get asked to prove our sexuality when entering some clubs,” John Carney from Whitechapel tells us, “we’ve also got our own. And now were the party people wanna join.” Arguably more progress has been made towards gay rights in the clubs then with political hand jobs, where everyone from Ken Livingstone to Hilary Clinton are ploying for the pink vote. With its fashion for passion and all things bling, no greater trend has shaped the gay experience then the urban club scene.
And yet, the journey Keith Boykin speaks of is not a lone venture. “I’m amazed by how we’ve banded together,” one raver claims, “There’s love in our community. I see it everyday.” It is that difficult river the activist warns of that has strengthened our bonds. When we walk into a club, everybody knows everybody, and our personal troubles are soon public news. For better or worse, is this not a definition of family?
Meanwhile, we’re spoilt choice. With no shortage of attractive men in our midst, every year the talent seems to be getting younger, fitter and more unabashed. Arguably our clubs raise the bar for sexy Black and Mix Raced men from all over the continent. As one actor commented, gay men of colour haven’t waited to be sat down at the table – we’ve demanded a place. If the Journey Keith Boykin points out is an adventure as well as a struggle, then river is where we find ourselves.
Patrick-Ian Polk, didn’t wait for HBO network to green-light a third series of Noah’s arc, he made a film. Same as Rag tag director Adaora Nwando didn’t advertise for gay actors, the brave pioneer went out into the streets of London and found them. In the same week Juventus’ managing director Luciano Moggi claimed, “there are no gays in sport” gay basketball player John Amaechi spoke openly to The Voice about that same narrow mindedness that has haunted the beautiful game. Boundaries have been crossed but the most important ones are to come. Gay culture hasn’t decided whether it wants to settle down into gay marriage like everyone else, or have the right to scream and dance into the early hours.
For men of colour at least, it’s clear we want both. No other time in our history have we opened up such a wide spectrum of choice. If being Black and Gay is positive because of its versatility, style, strength,and spirit. Then the best thing about Gay Black culture is arguably its future. To demand more, to push limits, to say anything and to unapologetically do anything are the foundations we’ve laid. The river is as deep as it is wide. To say anything’s possible is an understatement, but to say the best is yet to come is a certainty.